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Premature birth rates continue to rise in central Wisconsin, nationwide

Picture of a baby hanging outside Marshfield Medical Center's NICU (1/22/19 WSAW Photo)
Picture of a baby hanging outside Marshfield Medical Center's NICU (1/22/19 WSAW Photo)(WSAW)
Published: Jan. 22, 2020 at 6:16 PM CST
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 10 babies born in the United States is born prematurely. It’s one of the highest rates in the world. Experts at Marshfield Medical Center say it’s a statistic that is accurate here in central and north central Wisconsin.

“If the baby is delivered before 37 weeks of gestation, that’s considered a premature baby,” said Doctor Aditya Joshi, a neonatologist at Marshfield Medical Center. “At Marshfield Clinic, we manage babies beyond 24 weeks of gestation, so 24-37 weeks of gestation.”

According to Dr. Joshi, Marshfield Medical Center follows the national trend. He says the stress of a premature birth not only impacts the baby and mother, but the family as well.

“Every family wants a healthy baby,” said Dr. Joshi. “Medical problems plus anxiety, stress and a prolonged stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit).”

The rate of babies born prematurely has risen over the past four years. Dr. Joshi says that there are a variety of factors that cause a premature birth, which makes it difficult for experts to determine what the cause for the rise may be.

“Infection is a risk factor that leads to prematurity, and it’s not only restricted to infection,” he added. “High blood pressure in the mom, or there can be complications with the baby whether that be growth restrictions; so there’s so many different factors that lead to premature delivery.”

All of these factors can be a lot for a family to deal with while preparing for the birth of their newborn child. If detected early enough, Dr. Joshi says the trained staff at Marshfield Medical Center is able to help prepare families for what lies ahead.

“We get engaged with the family,” explained Dr. Joshi. “We have psychologists visiting. We have nutrition experts, we have nurses who have been working in the unit for many years, and the doctors. We engage with them, we respect them, we interact with them and we update them.”

The CDC explains that babies born prematurely may experience breathing problems, feeding difficulties, Cerebral palsy, developmental delay, vision problems and hearing problems. Marshfield Medical Center is one of the few hospitals in the state of Wisconsin equipped to deal with the different complications a premature birth may present.

“We’re fortunate to have a wonderful NICU at Marshfield,” said Dr. Joshi. “These are babies that have complex medical problems. We’re very fortunate to have a multi-disciplinary team, and if needed we can approach the different subspecialties for help, and we can manage all the medical problems, other than cardiac surgery, at Marshfield Clinic."

Jeff Starck, media relations specialist with Marshfield Clinic Health System, says the NICU at Marshfield Medical Center sees patients from all over central and north central Wisconsin, including some from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and eastern Minnesota.